United States District Court, D. Maine
DECISION AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFFS’ MOTIONS TO
AMEND COMPLAINT AND ORDER FOR FURTHER BRIEFING ON
DEFENDANTS’ MOTIONS TO DISMISS
BROCK HORNBY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
cases claim that Biddeford police officers violated the
plaintiffs’ civil rights under 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983
(2015), as well as related state laws. Both lawsuits allege
sexual assault (during different time periods many years ago)
by Biddeford police officers when the plaintiffs were minors.
They also assert that the Biddeford Police Chief and the City
of Biddeford failed to investigate, supervise, or train
Biddeford police officers, thereby creating a widespread
custom, habit, practice, and/or policy of permitting
Biddeford police officers to sexually assault minors. Despite
a serious statute of limitations issue, at this stage of the
litigation before any discovery has occurred, the federal
accrual rule may “save” the plaintiffs’
claims against the Police Chief and the City because of when
the plaintiffs say they first learned of Biddeford
officials’ involvement. Before I rule, however, I
direct the parties to brief the significance of the First
Circuit’s decision in Nieves v. McSweeney, 241
F.3d 46 (1st Cir. 2001), as explained further below.
procedural postures of these two cases is almost identical.
The plaintiffs filed separate Complaints in the Maine
Superior Court, each alleging three federal claims under
section 1983-one against the police officer individually (for
Lauzon, Officer Stephen Dodd; for Ouellette, Officer Norman
Gaudette), one against Chief Roger Beaupre individually, and
one against the Chief in his official capacity and the City
of Biddeford (“Municipal Defendants”)- and a
state law tort claim of negligent supervision against the
Municipal Defendants. Lauzon Compl. (ECF No. 3-1); Ouellette
Compl. (ECF No. 1-2). The defendants removed the cases to
this court and moved to dismiss the plaintiffs’
Complaints, arguing that the plaintiffs’ claims are
barred by the statute of limitations. Defs. Roger Beaupre and City
of Biddeford’s Mot. to Dismiss at 2 (ECF No. 19)
(“Lauzon Defs.’ Mot.); Defs. Gaudette, Roger
Beaupre & City of Biddeford’s Mot. to Dismiss at 3
(ECF No. 6) (“Ouellette Defs.’ Mot.”).
and Ouellette then moved to amend their Complaints, adding
Count V-a state law claim for sexual assault-and
“clarifying” that they did not know about the
Chief’s or the City’s role in violating their
constitutional rights until 2014-2015, when media coverage
and Biddeford Police Department investigations revealed
municipal involvement in “turning a blind eye to sexual
abuse of minors.” Lauzon’s First Mot. to Am.
Compl. at 5 (ECF No. 29); Ouellette’s First Mot. to Am.
Compl. at 5 (ECF No. 13). A few days after moving to amend
their Complaints, the plaintiffs filed their respective
oppositions to the defendants’ motions to dismiss. In
their oppositions, they stipulate to the dismissal
of their Count I section 1983 claims against officers Dodd
and Gaudette, but they ask the court to grant their pending
motions to amend their Complaints so that they may hold Dodd
and Gaudette accountable for the same conduct under state
claims of sexual assault-Count V of the plaintiffs’
Amended Complaints-which are not subject to a statute of
limitations. Lauzon’s Opp’n to Defs.’ Mot.
to Dismiss at 5-6, 8-9 (ECF No. 33) (“Lauzon
Opp’n”); Ouellette’s Opp’n to
Defs.’ Mot. to Dismiss at 5-6, 8-9 (ECF No. 14)
(“Ouellette Opp’n”); see 14
M.R.S.A. § 752-C (2015). They also stipulate to the
dismissal of their state law claims against the Municipal
Defendants for negligent supervision (Count IV of their
Complaints and the Amended Complaints). Lauzon Opp’n at
13; Ouellette Opp’n at 12. As to Counts II and III-the
section 1983 claims against the Chief and the City-they argue
that the federal rule for when a claim accrues defers the
accrual date of these claims until 2014-2015, when an
investigation first alerted Lauzon and Ouellette to the
Municipal Defendants’ role in violating their
constitutional rights. As a result, they say, their lawsuits
are well within Maine’s six-year statute of
limitations. Lauzon Opp’n at 6-10; Ouellette
Opp’n at 6-10. Lauzon and Ouellette also assert that
their claims should be tolled based on a theory of fraudulent
concealment. Lauzon Opp’n at 10; Ouellette Opp’n
Plaintiffs’ Motions to Amend their
motions to amend the Complaints come at an early stage in the
litigation, before the defendants have filed Answers, and
before any discovery has taken place. Finding no prejudice to
the defendants by virtue of allowing the
amendments and given the “liberal amendment
policy” of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a),
O’Connell v. Hyatt Hotels of P.R., 357 F.3d
152, 154 (1st Cir. 2004), I Grant the plaintiffs’
motions to amend their Complaints. As a result, and accepting
the plaintiffs’ stipulations of dismissal as to Counts
I and IV, the remaining claims before me for decision are
Counts II and III-the section 1983 claims against the Chief
and the City-and Count V-the state law sexual assault claim
against Dodd and Gaudette, respectively.
Facts for Purposes of the Motions to Dismiss
I am ruling on motions to dismiss, I construe the facts
alleged in the Amended Complaints in the light most favorable
to Lauzon and Ouellette. See Rodríguez-Ortiz v.
Margo Caribe, Inc., 490 F.3d 92, 94 (1st Cir. 2007).
Although the two cases are strikingly similar, because they
involve different police officers and different time periods,
I separate them for clarity. At this point, I do not know
whether the facts as alleged are true, but I must treat them
as if they are.
Lauzon v. Dodd, et al.
1998 and 1999, when Lauzon was thirteen or fourteen years
old, an adult neighbor sexually abused him. Lauzon Am. Compl.
¶ 10 (ECF No. 29-1). The Biddeford Police Department
investigated the incident, but at the time of the
investigation, Lauzon was too embarrassed to admit what had
happened. Id. ¶¶ 11-12. Weeks later,
Officer Stephen Dodd contacted Lauzon, offered to help him
with the neighbor’s sexual abuse, and picked up Lauzon
to discuss the incident. Id. ¶¶ 13-16.
Dodd drove Lauzon to a secluded dirt road and proceeded to
assault him sexually. Id. ¶¶ 16-17.
Officer Dodd sexually assaulted Lauzon on at least one other
occasion. Id. ¶ 21.
Officer Dodd sexually assaulted Lauzon, Chief Roger Beaupre
of the Biddeford Police Department had received information
that Dodd and at least one other Biddeford police officer had
sexually assaulted minors in Biddeford. Id. ¶
23. Despite this information, the Chief took no steps to
protect Lauzon or other minors in Biddeford from being
sexually assaulted. Id. ¶ 25. Officer Dodd has
stated (the Amended Complaint does not say to whom) that
Chief Beaupre would not take action to terminate Officer Dodd
because Dodd had photographic and/or video evidence of Chief
Beaupre’s alleged relationship with Officer Dodd and
one other person that, if disclosed, would significantly
compromise the Chief. Id.
Beaupre engaged in a pattern of altering Biddeford Police
Department internal affairs policies and establishing
department policies to allow Officer Dodd to remain in his
position during and after the period that sexual abuse
allegations were made against Dodd and before Lauzon was
sexually assaulted. Id. Chief Beaupre also failed to
provide mandatory notification to Maine’s Department of
Human Services of Officer Dodd’s sexual abuse, despite
his obligation to do so. Id. Lauzon first discovered
the Municipal ...